Monday, September 10, 2007

"They had some pathetic translators"

Debate, en Español.

When I read the headline I had a fleeting hope that at least one of our leading politicians actually spoke to the public in fluent Spanish - but apparently the public isn't ready to accept bilingualism quite yet:
"The anchors asked questions in Spanish that were translated into English for the candidates. Answers were translated into Spanish for viewers.
Candidates had to provide their answers in English, a restriction criticized by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a fluent Spanish speaker whose mother is Mexican."

Personally, while I'm glad they're actually paying attention to the fact that many people of hispanic ancestry can and do vote, it feels more like the politicians are targeting another niche crowd rather than actually catering to the needs and wants of one of the most rapidly growing ethnic groups in the US.
"Though polls show that education and health care are bigger priorities than immigration for most Hispanic voters, anchors focused many of their questions on Congress' failed attempt to overhaul the country's immigration laws. All candidates pledged to promote an immigration overhaul in their first year of office."

What also irks me is the fact that so many people in this country still haven't accepted the fact that a lot of us actually -like- speaking two languages and welcome the opportunity for greater political and social diversity that hispanic culture can bring.
""This is a very, very bad precedent," said David Caulkett, vice president of Floridians for Immigration Enforcement and a Pompano Beach resident. "It's already difficult to keep track of politicians in English. ... [English] is the official language of Florida and the de facto language of our country."

Caulkett praised the decision of Republican candidates not to take up Univision on its offer of a Spanish-language Republican debate. Only Sen. John McCain accepted the invitation, while other candidates said they had scheduling conflicts." it just me, or does that sound like a pompous, protected, WASP-ish asshole to you? Seriously, while I respect the fact that most of the East Coast at least was settled by English-speaking settlers and that we already have a "rich and varied" history, Florida and most of the southwest was in the hands of the Spanish (and the native americans) long before we moved into Miami, and I see no reason for the United States to continue to ignore such a beautiful, rich, and large, geographically speaking, part of its heritage. Even Puerto Rico, which is technically a part of the US and which has a huge spanish-speaking population, is typically ignored. Considering how many Mexican immigrants alone we have living in this country and contributing to its welfare (and paying taxes! le gasp!), I for one am glad to welcome anyone who wants in and is willing to work like most of the rest of us do.

Getting the Hispanic (or other minority) vote is one thing. Following up on that vote by supporting programs that will open more bilingual schools for new immigrants, support legal immigration routes (thus detracting from the draw of the illegal ones) and allow people who want to be here a chance to stay is what I want to see. I'd also like to see some more globally-minded thinking in schools so that the promise of future generations isn't stunted by ethnocentrism - IE, get away from the "Dead White Men" curriculum (yes, it's useful as a teaching base, but it's limiting nonetheless and should be supplemented), start teaching languages (not only Spanish but French, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese and others) at much earlier ages to encourage bilingual learners, implement better programs for immigrants like having them work with Habitat for Humanity to build their own housing or giving them cheap workshops on English, how to get a job, etc to help them get by. And yes, I would gladly pay taxes toward government-funded programs that supported immigration and assimilation in certain ways. Better yet, I'd volunteer for those programs and give it my all to help the newcomers learn.

I'd volunteer to teach all the adult ESL classes I could handle if the government would back me up by saying "Hey, it's ok to be new here, let's see what we can do for you!" instead of "Go back to Mexico, terrorist job-stealing scum!" But as usual, reality and practicality don't enter into politics often enough for anyone outside of them, and for every step forward one state takes in terms of welcoming the outside world, the others or the federal government will be here to take two or three paranoid steps back. Screw national security for once, and "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." - terrorists aren't likely to strike in the same fashion twice if they know what's good for them anyway, and if someone wants in that badly, they'll come from the angle you weren't expecting, not the one you're building a fence along.

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